Human Rights and Governance Bulletin
Weekly Bulletin Tuesday 26th May 2020
Safeguarding Frontline Health Workers in the fight against Covid-19 in Africa
Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent after Asia with about 1.3 billion people. As at 9 am EAT, May 12, 2020, a total of 66,373 COVID-19 cases and 2,336 (CFR: 4%) deaths had been reported in 53 African countries. This accounts for about 2% of all cases reported globally; which stood at 4,009,315 cases and 278,926 deaths as at the same date.
Doctors, nurses, carers and paramedics around the world at the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic response are faced with unprecedented work pressure and hazards including pathogen exposure, long working hours, psychological distress, fatigue, occupational burnout, stigma, and physical and psychological violence.
In commemorating Nurses Day 2020, the World Health Organization African Region on May 12, stated in a tweet that nearly 1,000 health workers on the continent had been infected with Covid-19 and many of them were nurses.
Snapshots Across Africa
A quick examination of different parts of Africa revealed a trend of most frontline health care professionals working under poor and unsafe conditions with inadequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), poor remuneration, inadequate health insurance, all validating their fear of being infected with the coronavirus. Resultantly, some have opted to stay away from work at a time when they are most urgently needed.
Zimbabwe: The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) has approached the High Court in Harare to compel the government to provide them with personal protective equipment (PPE) and adequately equip public hospitals to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. The court is yet to rule on the matter. For years, Zimbabwe has grappled with a shortage of skilled professionals healthcare staff; eroded infrastructure with ill-equipped hospitals, many lacking functional laundry machines, kitchen equipment, and boilers; and a lack of essential medicines and commodities. As at May 13, Zimbabwe had a total of 21 active cases and 4 deaths.
Ghana: There are widespread complaints from medical workers about the unavailability of PPEs, which is causing fear and uncertainty. Like its Zimbabwe counterpart, the country is faced with inadequate healthcare facilities to combat the disease. The Ridge Hospital in Accra, which was designated as the principal care facility for COVID-19 patients, has just four dedicated beds and the entire country has only 100 ventilators. As atat May 13, Ghana had a total of 4870 active cases and 24 deaths.
Kenya: Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) stated that one of Kenya’s largest slum; Mathare, with over half a million persons, is at great risk of becoming a hotspot for Covid-19 infections. This is because access to essential medical care and other life-saving services have been disrupted as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak. Similarly, many private health facilities closed down because of the risk of contamination and the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). At least one public health centre has been closed and its staff quarantined after some of them tested positive to Covid-19. The statement cited that some hospitals that remained open refused to admit patients with respiratory conditions even when coronavirus had been ruled out, hence the influx of cases of Tuberculosis, Asthma and Pneumonia into Covid-19 isolation facilities thus, delaying care, and increasing these patients’ exposure. As of May 14, there had been 758 cases of COVID-19 and 42 deaths in Kenya
Cameroon: In Cameroon, the death of Dr Fifen Inoussa on May 7 brought the total number of doctors who died due to Covid-19 to three, and health personnel to eight. Reports from several sources have stated that some centres caring for Covid-19 patients lack sufficient medical equipment, giving rise to growing concerns about the exposure of hospital personnel. As of May 14, there were 1121 active cases of Covid-19 and 136 deaths in Cameroon.
Mauritius Winning the Covid-19 War
Mauritius has declared that they have no record of active Covid-19 case. The country recorded its first Covid-19 case on March 18, 2020, and the figure rose to 332 at the end of April. As of May 12, 2o2o, the country recorded a total of 10 deaths and had discharged the remaining 322 patients who had recovered from the pandemic. Mauritius Health Minister Kailesh Jagutpal on May 12 stated that the island nation had won the battle against coronavirus but that the war against the virus is very much active and the country remains vigilant to avoid another upsurge. Mauritius government among other African countries declared a total lockdown initially shutting supermarkets for 10 days, a measure that has been extended till June 1. The state has directed that from May 15, a limited selection of essential stores such as bakeries, butcheries and fishmongers be re-opened, but most businesses, bars, shopping centres and markets should remain shut. Schools would also remain closed until August 1, the island’s famed beaches will remain off-limits and no more than 10 people will be allowed to attend weddings and funerals. Sources. Punch; Africanews
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 revealed that Nigeria in addition to lacking sufficient bed spaces and ventilators is currently challenged with the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for its health workers and COVID test kits. As of May 1, the number of health workers who had become infected with Covid-19 in Nigeria stood at 113, mostly as a result of inadequate PPEs to protect them. In Sokoto state alone, as at May 1, 12 of the 19 positive cases were health workers. Recently, health workers treating Covid-19 patients in one of the centres in Lagos Nigeria threatened to go on strike, alleging that they work under inhumane, and unhealthy conditions without life insurance.
The World Health Organization has warned that a severe and mounting disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) – caused by rising demand, panic buying, hoarding and misuse – is putting lives at risk from the new coronavirus and other infectious diseases. Healthcare workers rely on personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their patients from being infected and infecting others. But shortages are leaving doctors, nurses and other frontline workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for COVID-19 patients, due to the limited access to supplies such as gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, gowns, and aprons.
Human Rights and Governance: Nigeria
Nigeria President Appoint Prof. Ibrahim Gambari as Chief of Staff
Following the death of his former Chief of Staff Mr Abba Kyari on April 17, 2020, from Covid19 related complications, President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, appointed Prof. Agboola Ibrahim Gambari as his New Chief of Staff.
Prof. Gambari, a scholar and diplomat, has had an illustrious career spanning academia, government and international diplomacy. He served as Minister of External Affairs between 1984 and 1985. He was later appointed by former United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon and the chairperson of the African Union Commission as Joint African Union-United Nations Special Representative for Darfur in 2010. Professor Gambari also served as Joint AU/UN Special Representative in Darfur and Head of UNAMID (2010-2012). Source: Vanguard
Lockdown and Gender-Based Violence
Civil society actors have made several appeals to the state and federal task forces on Covid19 to consider sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) responders as essential workers through the lockdowns, noting the spike in SGBV globally and locally. While most cases have gone unreported because women and children could not get away from their abusers to seek police help or visit a hospital, frontline activists have complained that they are inundated with calls for an urgent response from victims – in particular minors under the age of 1o, and women.
Anecdotal of the COVID induced depravity is the case of Mr Sulaiman Maiyegun, who battered his wife and bragged about it on Facebook. He was subsequently arraigned before the Igbosere Magistrates’ Court on a two-count charge of assault occasioning harm and offensive publications, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Magistrate Folake Oshin, in her ruling, granted the defendant bail in the sum of N500, 000 with two sureties who must include a cleric and a family member to the defendant.
Sulaiman had on May 5 posted on his Facebook page that he beat his wife up and was waiting to be arrested. He attached several pictures of the battered woman identified as Mariam Gabriel, to the Facebook post.
Magistrate Oshin, in her ruling, directed the court registrar to also verify the addresses of Sulaiman’s sureties who must be taxpayers in the state. The case was adjourned until June 22 for mention. Source: Punch
Aggressive Testing to Validate Cross River’s Covid-19 status
Cross River and Kogi states have remained the only two states with no record of Covid-19 cases, and this has continued to generate reactions on the political will of the state governments to test for, and report outcomes. The Association of Medical Laboratory Scientist of Nigeria, AMLSN, Cross River Branch posited that there were possibilities of positive cases in the state that are yet to be discovered because only 10 persons had been tested for Covid-19 out of over 4 million residents of Cross River state. There is a need for more aggressive testing across the country to ascertain the true status of infections in each state.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC team, however, arrived in Cross River State on Monday, May 18 for an on the ground assessment/tour of the facility, following the State’s zero COVID-19 status and they were welcomed by the state commissioner for health Dr Beta Edu who claimed the state has been proactive before the first case was recorded in Nigeria on February 27th, 2020 and appealed to Federal Government and NCDC to support the State at various levels where it needs supports especially at the international borders and it’s a laboratory at Infectious Disease Hospital, IDH. Source: Vanguard
Send Almajirai Imported to the South-East Back
The influx of Almajiri children to the southern states in spite of interstate border closures appears to have continued as a trend and has elicited fears that they could spread the virus to vulnerable communities in the South. Several leaders from the South East, including a former governor of Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife have urged governors in the region to ensure that the Almajirai attempts to migrate to their states was resisted and that the children sent back to their home states.
It will be recalled that the Northern Governors Forum in April had decided to ban the Almajiri system of education in their states. Since that period, the southern region of the country has continued to witness an influx of Almajirai. Source: Vanguard
Niger state launches manhunt for fleeing Covid-19 patient
The Niger state government has launched a manhunt for another COVID-19 patient who absconded from the Minna isolation centre. The man said to be from Kano had manifesting symptoms of the disease before he absconded. Source: Punch
Covid-19 Patients Protest over Poor treatment in Gombe
Covid-19 patients isolated at the Kwandon Community of Gombe state on Tuesday, May 12, forced their way out of the isolation centre to protest poor treatment by the state government and the coronavirus taskforce. The patients numbering about 20 who had been isolated at a centre in Yamaltu Deba Local Government Area of the state, claimed they had not been properly cared for, their conditions had worsened, and that they preferred self-medication and sought to get proper care outside the centre.
Commenting on the protest, the Commissioner of Information and Culture for Gombe state, Alhassan Ibrahim Kwami, said the patients protested because they “misunderstood” their coronavirus status claiming that all the patients at the isolation centre were asymptomatic hence they found no need to administer any drug to them. Source: Premium Times
Bandit Attacks on Katsina Communities Despite Lockdown
The lockdowns seem to have no significant impact in slowing down violence related to mass atrocities in Nigeria. Katsina state, for instance, has witnessed insistent attacks through the movement restrictions. Kaduna state which had a 24-hour curfew also reported attacks on communities in Southern Kaduna that led to the death of at least 15 persons. Suspected herdsmen also killed two villagers in Agasha community of Guma local council of Benue State.
On Saturday, May 16, 2020, residents of Yangayya in Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina state blocked a highway to protest repeated attacks by armed bandits on their community. The first attack on the community was on Wednesday, May 13, after iftar (breaking of the fast) when the largely Muslim residents were about to go for their night (isha) prayers at the mosque. It was reported that the bandits returned on Saturday, May 16, around 8 a.m. During these attacks, residents lost their valuables, many were injured, and many women were raped and suffered other forms of physically assaulted.
In response to the attacks, the presidency on Sunday, May 17, announced that a major military operation to sweep bandits and kidnappers out of Katsina state had commenced; and that a planning team was already in the state selecting targets. He added that the full details were being kept secret for security reasons. Source: Premium Times
Human Rights and Governance: Africa
Frontline experiences from doctors and nurses combating the Covid-19 pandemic across the continent
As in other parts of the world, many of these doctors and nurses are confronted with challenges in the face of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, while others remain optimistic about the systems within which they operate.
Here, they share their stories of fighting the pandemic on the front lines. Some have chosen to remain anonymous.
Covid-19 could deepen food insecurity and malnutrition in Africa.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on May 14, expressed concerns on the potential impact of COVID-19 on food security, which is likely to exacerbate the already considerable burden of malnutrition in Africa. The impact of the disease is expected to be greater among those grappling with food scarcity and malnutrition, while widespread food insecurity will likely increase due to movement restrictions.
“COVID-19 is unfolding in Africa against a backdrop of worrying levels of hunger and undernourishment, which could worsen as the virus threatens livelihoods and household economies,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “Hunger and malnutrition heighten vulnerability to diseases, the consequences of which could be far-reaching if not properly addressed.” Read More